What Causes Low, Normal, and High Sex Drives

Medically Reviewed on 12/14/2021

What is a normal sex drive?

Your sex drive, also called your libido, refers to how much you would like to have sex. Low, normal, and high sex drives may be due to hormones, medical problems, medications, mental health issues, and other factors.
Your sex drive, also called your libido, refers to how much you would like to have sex. Low, normal, and high sex drives may be due to hormones, medical problems, medications, mental health issues, and other factors.

Your sex drive, also called your libido, refers to how much you would like to have sex. The sex drive changes over time for people of all genders. Some people have a lower sex drive, and others have a higher one. Extreme changes in your sex drive can be a sign of a medical condition. For the most part, any kind of sex drive is normal. However, if your sex drive is causing problems in your relationships, you can do things to help.

There is no such thing as "normal" when it comes to your libido. Some people like to have sex multiple times each day, while others like it once a week or even once a month. Some people think about sex all the time. Others only think of it once in a while. For some, sex is an essential part of life and relationships. For others, it's just something to do every now and again.

All about a low sex drive

A low sex drive means you don't have much interest in sex. Having little interest in sex isn't a problem unless it affects your mental health or your relationships.

What causes low sex drive?

There are many potential causes of a low sex drive:

  • Hormonal changes. In women, menopause and the period after giving birth often cause hormonal shifts that can cause a reduced sex drive. In men, testosterone levels lower naturally as you age.
  • Sexual dysfunction. People who experience pain during sex, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, or difficulty orgasming may find sex stressful and develop a lower libido.
  • Fatigue. Work, taking care of family, and other obligations can make you too tired to have sex regularly.
  • Illnesses. Sometimes, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis, among other conditions, can lower your libido.
  • Medications. Antidepressants are one type of prescription that is notorious for causing a lower sex drive. However, there are others with similar effects.
  • Drinking too much alcohol or abusing certain drugs. Having one drink may loosen you up and make you more relaxed for sex. However, drinking too much can cause sexual dysfunction and lack of arousal. Using other drugs can cause a similar reaction.
  • Mental health. Anxiety and depression can cause low sex drive, as can low self-esteem. 
  • Previous sexual abuse. Sexual assault and other forms of sexual abuse can cause you to stay away from sexual experiences.
  • Negative past sexual experiences. Unpleasant or unrewarding experiences of sex can leave you uninterested in further sexual encounters.
  • Problems in your relationship. An unresolved fight, trust issues, or other relationship problems can cause sexual disinterest.

How to help a low sex drive

The first step is usually to contact your doctor. They can run blood tests, perform a physical exam, and ask you questions about your lifestyle to find out what is causing your low libido.

Treatments may require you to:

  • Talk to a therapist 
  • Get couples counseling
  • Work with a sex therapist
  • Adjust your medication
  • Get a prescription medication to boost your libido
  • Have hormonal therapy
  • Make lifestyle changes like:
    • Increase your exercise
    • Schedule time for sex
    • Quit smoking
    • Drink less alcohol
    • Try something new in the bedroom

All about a high sex drive

It's not usually a problem if you enjoy having sex frequently or think about sex a lot. However, it can become a problem if your sex drive damages your ability to lead a normal life. Examples would include losing your job because you were watching porn at work or couldn't maintain a relationship without cheating. In cases like these, your high sex drive may be a problem for you.

When your high sex drive is problematic, it may be called compulsive sexual behavior or hypersexuality. Some people label the problem "sex addiction."  But experts say there is not enough evidence that this kind of behavior is the same as a chemical addiction. Either way, if you feel it is affecting you, then it is worth checking with a medical provider.

When is hypersexuality a problem?

Hypersexuality can be a problem when:

  • You feel you have no control over your sexual impulses
  • You've tried to change your behavior but can't
  • You use sexual encounters to avoid difficult feelings or issues
  • You take sexual risks that could lead to sexually transmitted infections, relationship issues, or problems at work
  • You can't maintain stable personal relationships

Hypersexuality isn't restricted only to in-person encounters. The condition can also include compulsive or inappropriate porn watching, sexting, phone sex, or other routes to sexual satisfaction.

What causes hypersexuality?

Experts don't know exactly what causes compulsive sexual behavior. However, they believe some potential contributing causes include an imbalance of chemicals or hormones in the brain, or certain neurological disorders, like dementia.

Having any other addiction, such as addiction to alcohol or gambling, is a risk factor for hypersexuality.

Treatment for hypersexuality

There are 12-step organizations that approach hypersexuality from an addiction angle. They include group meetings, sponsorship, and community support. Their structure and support are similar to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Other treatments include:

  • Therapy
  • Antidepressants to rebalance brain chemicals
  • Medication to lower sex drive
  • Medication to lower pleasure from addictive behaviors
  • Mood stabilizers

Sex drive myths

Everyone's libido is different, and there really is no "normal." However, many myths about the sex drive persist.

Myth: Men have higher sex drives than women

Men and women seem to think about sex at about the same levels. Variations in sex drive are not related to gender.

Myth: You have to have a high sex drive to feel sexually satisfied

It is very possible to have a satisfying, active sexual life even if you don't crave sex that often. Having a high sex drive is also not a guarantee that you will feel sexually satisfied.

Myth: Older people don't have sex

There's no age that people stop having sex, though your sex drive and interest may change as you get older. You can enjoy a healthy sex life at any age!


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Medically Reviewed on 12/14/2021

Better Health Channel: "Libido."

Mayo Clinic: "Compulsive sexual behavior," "Low sex drive in women."

Next Avenue: "5 Myths About Libido for People Over 50."

Right as Rain: "Is Your Sex Drive Normal? Probably."

The University of British Columbia: "Debunked: 3 myths about women's sexual desire."